Whitmer: Reopening state stalled by lack of virus testing

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a recent coronavirus update briefing in Lansing. (Photo from Governor’s office)

LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s governor said Sunday she was eager to loosen businesses restrictions while also avoiding new flareups of the coronavirus illness that has killed nearly 2,400 people in the state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said a lack of virus testing supplies is delaying such steps but maintains most residents support her actions despite a protest drawing thousands of people to the Michigan Capitol this past week.

“Not going to the gas station to fill up your boat, so that you can go tooling around, is a sacrifice, but it is one that is worth it, because who among us wouldn’t rather forgo jet-skiing or boating right now if it’s going to save your grandparents or your neighbor’s life?” Whitmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And that’s precisely what the trade-off is in this moment.”

Michigan’s state health department on Sunday reported 83 additional deaths. The number of new cases increased by 633, or 2%, from Saturday, giving Michigan 31,424 total reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Whitmer has faced pressure from protesters who don’t like her orders to keep people at home and businesses closed because of the outbreak. President Donald Trump used Twitter on Friday to urge his supporters to “LIBERATE” Michigan and two other states led by Democratic governors.

Whitmer argued Sunday that Michigan has the capability to triple the level of testing being done, but are lacking needed supplies.

“If the federal government would use the Defense Production Act and say ‘We’re going to make every swab people need and we’re gonna expedite creation of the reagents,’ we would be able to know how prevalent COVID-19 is,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It would take down the risks associated with taking action to reengage parts of our economy.”

Hospitals and public officials have been encouraged by the trend slower growth of new cases in Michigan, although stay-at-home orders and business restrictions remain in place. Whitmer said some rules could change on May 1.

Michigan’s 2,391 total reported COVID-19 deaths remain heavily concentrated in the Detroit area, with about 83% in the city and its surrounding counties.